Stories are powerful.
They’re probably one of the few dynamic forces that transcend cultures and contexts to deliver truths that all people can connect with and engage in. One of my favorite descriptions of story comes from Turkish author Elif Shafak, who in a TED talk called “The Politics of Fiction,” shares that the beauty of story is in both its local and global power. “There’s a metaphor which I love: living like a drawing compass. As you know, one leg of the compass is static, rooted in a place. Meanwhile, the other leg draws a wide circle, constantly moving.”
“In the end,” she continues, “stories move like whirling dervishes, drawing circles beyond circles. They connect all humanity, regardless of identity politics, and that is the good news.”
This week I came across a dynamic outlet for new forms of storytelling. MAKERS is a documentary project where dozens of short reflections and dreams are gathered to promote the ways a diverse collection of women are transforming the planet into a more holistic and habitable place. While most of these stories are non-fiction, rooted in a place that may not extend too far beyond their origins, the opportunity to zoom in on an impassioned way of living, thinking, and acting, is an encouragement for all people to continue acting out the worlds we desire. These many narratives of change and engagement craft a large and resounding story of the power of women.
In watching just a few of these stories, I feel like I could spend hours searching through the lives of strong women committed to taking action in their local settings. I’ve encountered Faith Ringgold, who discusses the power of art while fighting to get the works of women and African Americans to the larger public via museums; Ellen Gustafson, who encourages people to align their beliefs about food with the ways they eat, focusing on the full spectrum from production to nutrition; Lydia Villa-Komaroff, who tells an empowering story as a Latina woman in the highly male profession as a diabetes research scientist.
While MAKERS highlights the impact that new and exciting people are taking, it also gives voice to important women who have long been in the public eye. Whether it’s Hillary Clinton sharing her commitment to work for the full rights of women worldwide, Sandra Day O’Connor reflecting on her career-making history in the Supreme Court, or Alice Walker musing on illuminating stories of family, life, and poverty, the eclectic collection of voices prophesy one thing: a better way through women.
This week as we focus on mothers and women, may we embrace the many examples of love and support we’ve witnessed, and work for justice for all women, this Mother’s Day week and every week to come.
Joshua Witchger is an online assistant at Sojourners.